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Yves Guillemot has great ambition for gaming and he spoke at Ubisoft’s annual event this week about his latest vision and strategy.
Guillemot predicted that the game industry will reach $300 billion in revenue by 2030 (compared to nearly $200 billion this year) and 530,000 game industry “talents” or professionals. He expects gaming to reach an audience of five billion people by 2028, thanks in no small part to the “increasing democratization of games” on mobile devices and other platforms.
I’m sure Guillemot believes this with all his heart, and I’d be glad if it came true. But his pitch is to show people that Ubisoft is a good investment. Tencent also believes Guillemot, as it recently decided to get closer to the company by buying a 49.9% stake in Guillemot Brothers Ltd., the founding fraternity behind Ubisoft.
Guillemot said Ubisoft will embrace a variety of business models and platforms, such as subscription (Ubisoft+), free-to-play, premium and cloud. The goal is to make games accessible to everyone. He said Web3 will grow as a way to reach new people through decentralization, and he envisions that people will find games through virtual worlds, as well as movement between virtual and physical worlds.
“I can see games soon surpassing all other leisure industries in terms of impact and engagement. I see games becoming the ultimate form of social, artistic and innovative entertainment. The most important is,
I see that games continue to enrich people’s lives. And I am convinced that Ubisoft has what it takes to write this new chapter and shape the future of the industry.”
He said esports would empower gaming in communities at the local, regional and national levels. And he said that Ubisoft wants to spread its franchises to a new audience through three upcoming mobile games to be published on Netflix. And through other media, such as the Assassin’s Creed video series being developed for Netflix. Ubisoft calls this one of its “products” in the franchise, as it’s an expansion that goes beyond games, but one that’s done with respect for game ownership.
Guillemot said the strategy is to create powerful brands with the company’s 21,000 employees — including 17,000 developers — and then bring those brands to an ever-expanding audience. By my calculation, Ubisoft would have about 3.2% of all game developers in the world.
Guillemot said the company’s mainstay brands – Far Cry, Assassin’s Creed and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six – generated more than $300 million or $304 million for the first time in history. And Assassin’s Creed Valhalla reached sales of more than $1 billion. The goal is to have each of those brands reach $2 billion in annual sales within five years.
Guillemot said the company would adopt different business models and distribution, such as multiplayer, free-to-play, mobile, subscriptions and more. Ubisoft has always had a reputation for being the first to move to new platforms, and Guillemot said there would be a strong focus on mobile. He mentioned new mobile games for The Division and Just Dance.
“We are always the first in disruptive technologies,” said Guillemot.
He pointed to the upcoming pirate ship game Skull & Bones as a new franchise, as well as the success of live-operation games such as The Crew, Anno and Rocksmith. He noted that Ubisoft still believes it can differentiate its games with its own custom game engines like Snowdrop, and he believes the i3D.net performance hosting infrastructure, which has servers in 40 locations on six continents, supports Ubisoft and others. will help businesses that use it to deliver better multiplayer service to people in more locations.
Ubisoft Scalar will enable new kinds of cloud-enabled games (perhaps similar to the vastness of Microsoft Flight Simulator’s cloud-induced landscapes).
“You will be amazed at what we will create (with Ubisoft Scalar),” said Guillemot.
He noted that Ubisoft+ has easy access to a subscription for more than 100 games, and that it’s available on Stadia, Amazon Luna, GeForce Now and soon on Xbox and PlayStation. Ubisoft+ will also start picking up third-party and indie games. The goal is to reach 300 million active users in three years.
Guillemot acknowledged that the company “stumbled” when it became known that the company had not curbed sexual harassment throughout the company. But he said the company has put in place better safeguards and noted that the company was able to hire more than 4,000 people in the past fiscal year, including 600 people hired. These people are key to the company’s DNA when creating new brands.
Sandrine Caloiaro, chief portfolio officer, spoke about Ubisoft’s move to bring brands like Assassin’s Creed into media such as books and movies. She noted that Ubisoft has 35 established brands. And she suggested that Ubisoft will enable more user-generated content, allowing players to build meaningful experiences for players to socialize their love for brands and create things to express that love.
In more than 15 years, Assassin’s Creed has sold 13 titles and over 200 million copies.
Each trilogy of games has reflected a different period in franchise history, with the first period concentrating on single-player stories and the second period expanding into open-world role-playing games like Valhalla.
Sales doubled with each period. And with the new era, called Infinity, the company is creating a perpetual hub, where players can choose which experience they want to have, whether that takes them to the past of the franchise or to the future. The hub is like taking the Animus DNA machine and putting it on your desktop, says Marc-Alexis Cote, executive producer for Assassin’s Creed.
The next experiences to plug into this hub are an Assassin’s Creed game called Code Red, set in feudal Japan where you play as Shinobi. Another title is codenamed Hexe, developed by Ubisoft Quebec. Yet another is Invictus. Codenamed Jade will be a mobile game set in China.
While Assassin’s Creed titles typically took three years to develop, the company will now invest the same budget over a longer period of time in hopes of making games that are higher quality and more durable.
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